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Russia Submits Plan to U.S.; Fallout from Obama's Syria Speech; U.N. Security Council Members Meet on Syria; U.N. Security Council Members Meet On Syria; "Part Of The Problem, Not The Solution"; First- Ever Recall Revives Gun Control Debate; Media Flips Media the Bird

Aired September 11, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the effort to solve the crisis in Syria now clearly focusing in on diplomacy, as Russia submits an actual plan to the United States.

But can Vladimir Putin be trusted to make it work?

Why so many people in Washington say the answer is no.

Plus, Jimmy Carter's surprising remark undermining President Obama.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The drumbeat of war has now been replaced with the hushed tones of diplomacy. Russia has submitted a plan to the United States that would place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. And the top American and Russian diplomats, they are getting ready to try to hammer out the details. The meeting tomorrow in Geneva, Switzerland between the secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will give all of us an important indication of whether or not the Russian chemical weapons proposal is really serious.

And here's what I've learned. Top U.S. officials tell me they believe that if the United States and Russia actually were to work out a deal, it would have very solid chance of being implemented. They believe the Russians have enormous leverage over the Syrian president, Bashar Al-Assad, given the very significant military and political support Moscow provides.

They also insist that the threat of U.S. military strikes -- the threat certainly has forced the Russians and the Syrians to at least consider this deal, which, if implemented -- and that's the huge if -- would not only deter and degrade Syria's chemical weapons, but actually wind up destroying them.

So why would Bashar Al-Assad do that?

He may conclude that that that would be his only way to remain in power -- give up the chemical weapons or follow in the footsteps of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, begins our special coverage of the crisis in Syria.

He's over at the White House -- Jim, what is the very latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Russia's prestige is on the line when it comes to dealing with Syria's chemical weapons. Still, he said that the U.S. has seen more cooperation from the Russians in the last two days than they've seen in the last two years.

Still, the White House is hardly brimming with confidence that diplomacy will work.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With President Obama out of the White House at a volunteer event on this 9/11 anniversary, administration officials were fielding questions on Syria and offering few answers. There is no time line yet for the still developing Russian proposal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't want to suggest that all of this could possibly be wrapped up by Friday.

ACOSTA: And White House press secretary, Jay Carney, repeatedly raised doubts about whether the Russians can even be trusted.

CARNEY: Russia has been Assad's closest ally. Trust, but verify.

ACOSTA: Until a Russian reporter noted the plan for Moscow grew out of discussions between President Obamas and Putin.

CARNEY: I take your point and I want -- and I accept that.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.

ACOSTA: Despite the president's words of caution, the White House conceded it has yet to win over Congress.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: And I cannot support an operation that is so poorly conceived, so foolishly telegraphed and virtually guaranteed to fail.

ACOSTA: Carney was pressed on whether the president asked for a delay in the vote for military force due to a lack of Congressional support.

CARNEY: The president asked for delay in that vote because we were engaged in diplomatic -- exploring a diplomatic avenue.

ACOSTA: As for its other skeptics, the White House was even punching back on Twitter, when journalist Jeffrey Goldberg Tweeted, "We've heard this case before, I think, nothing new so far," White House senior adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, Tweeted back, "Presidents don't ask for time to address columnists who follow every minute of the news." Just another sign for the president that the barrage of questions are here to stay. AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: It seems to me he has now put himself in a real box. If diplomacy fails, he only really has one option, and that is the least undesirable military option.

ACOSTA: Even as he was paying tribute to the victims of the September 11th attacks, Mr. Obama seemed to touch on the dilemma facing him now -- when to strike and when to hold back.

OBAMA: Let us have the wisdom to know while force is, at times, necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek.


ACOSTA: Secretary of State John Kerry will be heading to Geneva tonight to meet with his Russian counterpart to start working on how to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons. A State Department spokeswoman said that the goal of this meeting is really to test the seriousness, at this point, of the Russian proposal. That spokeswoman went on to say that Kerry and other officials from the State Department would be going into those meetings with their eyes wide open -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots at stake, obviously.

Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

The former president, Jimmy Carter, he's raising some eyebrows right now with his remarks about the crisis in Syria. He says it's taken a serious toll on President Obama's standing and he revealed he's opposed to any U.S. military strike.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the vote is no in the Congress, it will not be a catastrophe as far as the credibility of the president of our country is concerned. A lot of people are saying well, if we just get a "no" vote, it's going to be a terrible blow to our country and to our president. And I don't think that's true.

Congress has not yet decided what to do. The United States public is heavily against oriented any military strike. I share that belief. But I'm also concerned about what President Obama can do now to bring back his stature and to make sure we have a successful conclusion of rapidly changing events in Washington, in the United Nations and in New York, in Syria, and, obviously, in Russia.


BLITZER: All right, let's a little bit deeper right now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our chief political correspondent and anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION," Candy Crowley -- did the president's speech, Gloria, last night, make him stronger or weaker? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Or none of the above, because I think it would be none of the above. I think what the public heard from the president was not surprising, that he is somebody who doesn't want to go to war. He decided he wants to pursue diplomacy, but keep the threat of the use of force out there, because he believes that's what brought the Syrians and the Russians to the table.

So if there were persuadable people out there -- I'm not sure how many there were -- I don't think it really shifted the balance for him one way or another.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, insofar as we saw on the flash poll that people agreed with the president's position, it would be interesting to ask them what it was, because he did sort of argue both sides of this, because he has to. I mean we're going to try this diplomacy, but if not, we're going to have to go ahead and do this.

But the fact is that I think what people are reacting to was, oh, OK, we're not going to send the missiles right now, and, thus, the positive reaction.

But in terms of helping him and his argument, it did not -- it did nothing for him on Capitol Hill, so far as I can see, at all, and, in fact, may have weakened it, because we all came away and said, you know, sort of, is that all there is sort of reaction?

BORGER: Well, and he made a very strong moral case. Chemical weapons and international norms, talking about American exceptionalism and why we are different from other countries, we cannot let this go unnoticed.

And so the question that I have is, did he box himself in?

And now, if this all breaks down at the U.N. and if Kerry's talks don't go well, did he box himself in, into using force, even without a Congressional vote?

CROWLEY: I think, in many ways, he was already boxed in and he'd made that argument before. He made it in St. Petersburg. He made it over here.

You know, in some ways, I think I could argue maybe at least around the margins that he helped himself in that some of those Congressmen and senators that you've been hearing saying, I don't know, I think we should try to find another way. If he says, hey, I'm going to stop this and pursue this last option, if this last option goes nowhere...

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: -- he can then come back and say I tried. So it may have helped him in Congress. I'm not sure.

BLITZER: I've exhausted every...

CROWLEY: Yes, that's it.

BLITZER: -- opportunity.

CROWLEY: You've seen me and next...

BLITZER: And now we have no choice...


BLITZER: -- but to do this.

You know, a speech, no matter how powerful, you know, how to -- the speech he gave after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, every -- a lot of us remember that speech.

Did it result in new legislation improving gun control, which was one of his objectives?


BLITZER: And right now, he gave a powerful speech last night.

Will it result in "yea" votes in the Senate and House of Representatives, if this Russian initiative collapses and he wants to -- goes back and asks for authorization?

BORGER: It could help him, to a certain degree. But I don't see any huge bump in public opinion, Wolf, at all. And I would argue, maybe then he doesn't even go back to the Congress.

I mean why would he put himself in a position where he gets a "no" vote?

Wouldn't he rather have no vote at all?

CROWLEY: And see, I think he's boxed himself in there, too. I mean you can't go once and then go ahead and do it and say, oh, well, I didn't think I needed a vote, actually. I've changed my mind.

So it -- again, it may have helped around the margins.

Is it enough?

I have to tell you, that the feeling out there is so anti, even, you know, what they've described as, you know, targeted and little, that I think it's very difficult for him to overcome. And that makes it difficult for Congress to vote with him.

I do have it in my head this idea that if the president of the United States comes to you, which is, arguably, his most important ask of this Congress in foreign policy matters, and they say no to him, that's a huge blow to him here at home, even if, as Jimmy Carter argues, it doesn't hurt us overseas.

BLITZER: The only way I would see -- envisage the president of the United States ordering military strikes in Syria without Congressional authorization, not even asking for another vote, if there were evidence that the Bashar Al-Assad regime did it again.

BORGER: Used them again.


BLITZER: That they -- if they slaughtered a whole bunch of people with sarin gas one more time, then I -- I would say all bets are off and the president just gives the command, the execute order to the Pentagon...


CROWLEY: -- stupid.

BLITZER: Yes, so.

BORGER: Well, and don't forget...

BLITZER: I mean...

BORGER: -- also...

BLITZER: -- that would be the only way I would see...


BLITZER: -- see that would happen.

BORGER: Right. And don't forget, this isn't the only thing he has on his plate. I mean this is, you know, we have the end of the fiscal year coming up.

BLITZER: He's got a lot. We're going to get to that.

BORGER: We've got the governor shutdown.

BLITZER: He's got a lot of (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: I mean...

BLITZER: He's the president of the United States. He's a busy guy.


CROWLEY: That's true.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, can Vladimir Putin be trusted to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles?

Why some here in Washington say he's actually part of the problem, not the solution.

Plus, Bashar Al-Assad staying in power minus his chemical stockpile -- Congressman Peter King joins us live. We'll talk about that and more. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As the push for a U.S. military strike against Syria cools off, at least for now, diplomacy clearly heating up. The next chapters in the Syrian crisis are being played out in Geneva, Switzerland, where the secretary of State, John Kerry, will meet with his Russian counterpart, the Russian foreign minister, tomorrow.

Over at the United Nations, meantime, with a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council, that's been taking place today. They've been discussing the French resolution on Syria with Russia and China.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Payton Walsh, is over at the United Nations for us -- Nick, what do we know about what happened at this meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know little about what actually was discussed, apart from the fact it was the French text. We do know that it has just ended, according to a diplomat with knowledge of what was going on. And the ambassadors have left the Russian mission, where it was happening.

The permanent three, as some refer to the U.K., U.S. and France, had met just beforehand at the French mission. But this meeting didn't last very long. I mean by all guesses, within an hour, it was over. So quite what level of perhaps harmony, you can take a judgment for yourself there.

Wolf, you're going to, you know, bear in mind this is about trying to find wording for this French resolution that the Russians can swallow at this point. The French put out a very strong text early yesterday and leaked to Reuters something slightly softer. It's all really about the level of stick within that resolution as a potential sanction for Syria if they don't get rid (ph) of the chemical weapons fast enough.

People were thinking perhaps today's meeting was about trying to set the stage for tomorrow in Geneva. The U.S. wants the Security Council resolution to kind of tie up whatever protocol they put in place for Syria handing over the chemical weapons. But we just don't quite know at this point how well that meeting went. But judging by how short it was, perhaps, not that well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: When do we expect, Nick that final report from the U.N. weapons inspector who are actually in Syria, who went to that location, outside of Damascus where the chemical weapons were used August 21st. 1,400 people were killed according to the U.S. When will that report finally be released?

WALSH: In the kind of chaos of the past couple days here, the massive turn around we've seen in diplomacy, people have almost forgotten about that U.N. inspectors report and many telling me will contain a narrative of what happens in those Damascus suburbs in that particular faithful day which may, in some way, be able to cast the finger of blame. Now, the U.N. have refused to give a timeline for when it will be delivered and did again so today.

But I'm understanding now from a number of diplomatic sources that we are looking at early next week, potentially, Monday or Tuesday. That, of course, would inject a potentially serious set of facts from what the U.N. say is their independent credible source here into the diplomatic discussion about how to put Syria's weapons under international control, unless, of course, we do see some roadblock putting itself up and between that and the release and kicking that can further down the road.

But potentially, early next week, that pretty illuminating piece of report will be emerging we understand, from there, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see how far they go in the report. Thanks very much. Nick Paton Walsh reporting.

Coming up in our special coverage on the crisis in Syria, it may be the United States' best hope for diplomacy in this crisis, but can the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, be trusted? That's coming up.

Also, AT&T scrambling to apologize after a 9/11 anniversary tweet goes viral. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a quick look at some of the other stories we're monitoring in the SITUATION ROOM.

A car bomb exploded outside the foreign ministry building in the Libyan City of Benghazi today, exactly one year since the assault on the U.S. consulate there that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens. The blast blew away large parts of the front of the building, but there were no casualties.

Police say it may take months to recover iPad video that could determine whether charges will be filed in a reported confrontation between George Zimmerman and his estranged wife. According to police, Shellie Zimmerman says she used the tablet to record Monday's incident. George Zimmerman was seen here on police dash cameras.

The video surrendering, but this is just the latest in the string of encounters he's had with police since being acquitted in Trayvon Martin shooting death.

Apple's two new iPhone models aren't gaining much traction on Wall Street. The company's stock plunged for a second straight day despite Tuesday's much anticipated unveiling of the iPhone 5S and 5C. The sharp combined dropped has erased nearly $35 billion dollars in Apple's market value and is rare immediately following a new iPhone's debut. The Dow, overall, by the way, finished up again, 135 points up today.

AT&T now apologizing for a now deleted tweet that says was intended to commemorate today's 9/11 anniversary, but instead, triggered lots of backlash online. The original tweet shows a hand holding up a smartphone with the words "never forget" and the tribute in light memorial on the screen. The company says the tweet was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the tragedy and apologizes to anyone who found it in poor taste.

Up next in our special coverage of the crisis in Syria, U.S. lawmakers' deepness (ph) stressed to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, when it comes to Syria. Congressman Peter King, he's here to talk about that and more.

Plus, the daunting reality, how do you find secure and remove and destroy, eventually, chemical weapons from a country right in the middle of a devastating civil war? Tom Foreman and Gen. Spider Marks, they'll break it all down.


BLITZER: Happening now --


BLITZER (voice-over): He may be the United States' best hope for diplomacy in this crisis, but can the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, be trusted. I'll ask the key lawmaker, the new York congressman, Peter King, a member of the intelligence committee.

Plus, even if the U.S. and its international partner agree on a plan to secure Syria's chemical weapons, could it turn out to be mission impossible?

And an unprecedented recall revives the national debate over gun control.

You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER (on-camera): Hope for heading off a military strike in Syria now pinned on a Russian plan to place Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons under international control. But the success or failure of the plan sits squarely on his most powerful ally. We're talking about the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a man many here in Washington simply do not trust.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story. Brian, what are you hearing about President Putin, his role in this, what officials here are saying?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of talk here in Washington, Wolf. Sen. John McCain says he is skeptical of the Russians. Sen. John Cornyn says there is little reason to believe that Putin is a reliable diplomatic partner in all of this. There is, as Wolf mentioned, a fundamental mistrust of Vladimir Putin here in Washington, and it starts with his tight relationship with Bashar al- Assad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): He says he hopes his friends in Syria bring their chemical weapons under control and also have them destroyed. But Vladimir Putin's role as the last best hope for diplomacy in this crisis isn't winning believers in Washington.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The Russians are part of the problem in Syria. They are not credibly part of the solution.

TODD: Senators John Cornyn, John McCain, and others have been ticking through laundry lists of why they believe Putin won't follow through on getting the Syrians to give up their alleged chemical weapons. Putin's government, they say, simply does too much business with the Syrians. They cite plane loads of Russian weapons sent to the Syrian regime for hefty profits, nearly a billion dollars worth in 2011 alone.

There's a Russian naval base in Syria, and Putin does business with another U.S. antagonist, Iran. A Russian newspaper reporting Putin is about to offer an advanced air defense missile system to the Iranians and help with a nuclear power plant, then there's Putin's sense of personal rivalry.

JULIA IOFFE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Putin's view of his role in the world is to be a counter weight to America.

TODD: And obsession of Putin's according to Julia Ioffe who spent three years as a journalist in Russia. Analysts say that's part of what fueled Putin's decision to grant asylum to NSA leaker, Edward Snowden. With the Syria crisis, they say, Putin could nix a U.N. deal at any time if there's a move to punish his ally, Bashar al-Assad for not holding to it. Or --

ANDREW KUCHINS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL. STUDIES: Another deal breaker that could be -- that we would see at the outset even earlier on would be if there were insistence that the Assad government assumed guilt for the August 21st use of chemical weapons, that those in the government, the responsible for that, would be put to trial.

TODD: Still, Senator Diane Feinstein and others believe Putin does want to reach a deal to end this crisis, that he doesn't want Syria to have chemical weapons. Ioffe says Putin wants to show President Obama that he has the ability to end this peacefully if Mr. Obama can't, and there's another motivation.

IOFFE: To be center stage, to be somebody that you reckon with, somebody that you have to come to and seek his approval and you have to come and kiss his ring. The world has to come and kiss his ring. I think that's part of it.


TODD (on-camera): And what's frustrating to American leaders, Putin's ties to Syria could kill any effort to punish Bashar al-Assad or they could be the only way to avoid a military strike. Vladimir Putin may the only world leader who can actually get Assad to give up those chemical weapons -- Wolf. BLITZER: I know among the skeptics, they think maybe the Russians and the Syrians, they're simply seeking to stall and play all of this out for time.

TODD: That's -- a lot of people believe that is what the real motivation for Vladimir Putin here is. Stall everything, keep his friend Bashar al-Assad in power, and that's a key point of difference here also between him and the Americans. The Americans, the Obama administration has called for Assad to go. Putin does not want him thrown out.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks very much.

Let's get more right now on the crisis in Syria with Republican congressman Peter King of New York. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf, thank you very much.

BLITZER: We're just getting a statement from Brigadier General Salim Idris. As you know, he's the head of the Free Syrian Army, the FSA as it's called. That's the opposition to Bashar al-Assad. He doesn't like this whole diplomatic initiative that Republicans have put forward. He says he rejects the Russian initiative to put chemical weapons under international control. He says the perpetrators of the crime, in his words, have to be brought before the International Criminal Court. That's referring to Bashar al-Assad, and he is begging for more ammunition to help his fighters.

What's your reaction? What do you think? Does this Russian initiative have a chance of success and averting any U.S. military action?

KING: Wolf, I have multiple concerns. Let's just jump ahead. Let's assume that Russia is successful. We have now made Russia then a major player in the Middle East. Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out, the Russians out, 40 years ago. Now without spending a ruble or shooting a bullet, Putin will have injected himself back into the Middle East, which will have real consequences --

BLITZER: But let me interrupt, Congressman. Aren't they already a major player? I mean, they're the principle ally, the backer of military support, political support, financial support, for the Syrian regime. So aren't they already a player?

KING: No, they're a player dealing only one-on-one with Syria. Now they will have influence over the region, and that will have, I think, a major impact, could have a major impact as we go forward with Iran and Israel. So rather than just being a on one-on-one relationship with Syria, now we are in effect making them a player in the Middle East. And we will be almost indebted to them, if you will --

BLITZER: Let me interrupt. On the other hand, if they do succeed, and it is a big if, but if they do succeed, in controlling, isolating, identifying all of Syria's chemical weapons, arsenal, and then the U.N. inspectors, international inspectors come in and start destroying it, wouldn't it be worth it to get rid of all of those chemical weapons in a country like Syria?

KING: It is, but at the price of given Russia such a large stake in the Middle East to me is troubling because Iran is more of the threat. And as far as the chemical weapons obviously, it will be very good to get rid of the chemical weapons.

But we're also, by having Russia there, we pretty much have given immunity to Assad as far as him staying in power. And it's been our policy that Assad must go and we're going to support the Free Syrian Army. Now to me, the only way any hope -- assuming Russia is honest and Assad is being honest -- the only way to find these weapons and secure the weapons, to get them out of the country would be if there is no war going on. That would require a cease-fire on both sides, and in effect that would give Assad a victory over the rebels, certainly weaken the rebels and basically give him a -- secure him in power for as long as Assad is.

BLITZER: Let me just get this straight, Congressman. I want you to be precise. You don't even think the president should have sent the secretary of state John Kerry to Geneva for tomorrow's meetings to meet with Sergey Lavarov, the Russian foreign minister? You think that is a blunder?

KING: No, Wolf, I am saying once - once the -- to me the mistake was made of putting the offer out there, unintentionally, and the Russians accepted, we really have no choice. At that stage, we had to do it. But I am saying now that we are sort of locked into doing it, we should be extremely skeptical, extremely weary and not be making anymore concessions. Because again, even if this works optimally, it's not going be great for us. So, we certainly shouldn't make concessions like saying we're not going to take action against Assad and giving any more deference to Putin than we have to.

No, once the offer was out there == again, whether John Kerry intended it or not and the Russians said they wanted to take him up on it, we had to go along with. John McCain has said that. But having said that, we are really boxed in right now, so we have to take, I think, a tough line with Russia as we go forward because they are not really doing us the favor.

Now, they may be giving politicians on Capitol Hill a favor, doing them a favor by saying now we won't have to vote. And maybe they're giving President Obama a way out on this right now in the short-term. But the bottom line is Putin is doing this for Putin. He's doing it for Russia, and by doing that, to me, he strengthens Syria. And he also I think strengthens Iran's position in the Middle East.

BLITZER: But you know, I come back to the point - tested. See what they can do. If in fact they can do what they say they can do, namely destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile -- and that's a big if. I acknowledge it could take a long time, very complicated, especially in the middle of a civil war that's going on. But if they were to do that, so many countries, especially Israel, I can tell you, would issue a sigh of relief because they are so worried about that enormous chemical weapons stockpile in Syria. I don't know if you have seen the Israeli government distribute gas masks to a lot of their citizens over the past few weeks.

KING: No, and obviously in the past, Israel has taken action against Syria when it comes to nuclear weapons. But having said that, I'm just saying that because this will be so difficult -- listen, the process is started. If it is going to start, we should cooperate, but in doing so, be very strict in doing it. Not be giving the benefit of the doubt to Putin. Don't let them drag it out. Because I'm saying even if it does work, there is still not great consequences in the end.

But now that it's started, we have to try to make it work and not in anyway by making more concessions. Keeping in mind, Putin wants to re- establish Russia, he wants to do it at minimal cost to Russia, and he wants to assert himself in a powerful way. So knowing that, we have to be very, very leery how we go forward on this.

But again, we have no choice right now once John Kerry let the cat out of the bag.

BLITZER: Yes. And now that the process has begun, let's play it out, see what happens. And there is no doubt that if the Russians were to succeed in convincing Bashar al-Assad to destroy that chemical weapons stockpile in Syria, Russia's prestige in the region would certainly be enhanced. That might be a negative, but on the positive side, no more chemical weapons in Syria. That would be and extremely positive development for so much of the region.

Thanks very much, Congressman, for joining us.

KING: Wolf, thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, eliminating chemical weapons in a war zone: why it could be potentially, some say, a mission impossible. We're taking a look at the daunting realities when our special coverage of the crisis Syria continues.


BLITZER: If the United States and its world partners can't agree on a diplomatic plan to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control, how will that mission actually be executed? Is there a chance it could turn out to be mission impossible?

CNN's Tom Foreman is over in the virtual room along with a CNN military analyst, former commander of the U.S. Army intelligence center, retired Major General "Spider" Marks. Tom, explain how difficult a mission this will be.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's explain by looking at a map first. We'll show you here all the places that intelligence forces believe that the Syrians have comprised or put together or stored large amounts of chemical weapons.

Now let me show you many of the cities in which there is fierce fighting in this civil war. Look, it is all right on top of each other. That's why, General, you say if you're going to have any hope of grappling with this stuff, will you have to have some ground rules. What do you mean?

MAJOR GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): First and foremost, there has to be a ceasefire. There can be no expectation these inspectors have to fight their way in. Look, we're in the midst of three-year civil war. The warring parties have to agree to separate to get these inspectors in.

FOREMAN: What else beyond that would you require from the Syrian government?

MARKS: At a minimum, Tom, what you need to have is the Syrians have to declare that they have. This is the stuff we have and this is where it is located. Then that all has to be validated. And that will take a very long time in order to get that done.

FOREMAN: So, that's all very complicated, including the fact we don't know if we will destroy weapons or if the military is going to destroy the labs or if the people who are involved are free from any kind of prosecution. Let's say you get past all of that, though. Let's say all of that is settled.

Then you move to the second part, which is the actual search, and this can also be complicated. Here is one reason why. Let me give you a for-instance here. You go into some facility where there is supposed to be all of these barrels of chemicals, and you find only a fraction of that much. What happens?

MARKS: You immediately throw into question the validity of the inventory that the Syrians gave you. That now goes out the window. The good news is, maybe we have found some of this stuff. The bad news, where is the rest of it? We have to go find it. It can be in a thousand different locations. It grew legs, as we said. Now you have to have this very large expanding role, mission to go get it.

FOREMAN: And bear in mind, there could be hundreds of inspectors involved, so that could multiply over and over again. And that only gets you to the last part, which is the idea of control and disposal. Even if you get past those first two hurdles, you have to figure out what to do with it.

Here is one idea that's been floated out there, the idea of saying the U.N. would simply put troops on the ground, cameras around the sites, they'd secure everything where it is. It keeps it away from the Syrian government; it keeps it away from the insurgents. It's safe. What is wrong with that plan?

MARKS: Here is the challenge. The potential military action didn't include boots on the ground. Here is a diplomatic solution that would necessarily include boots on the ground. You have to protect the sites. You have to provide persistent stare on the sites so the chemical weapons don't grow legs again and disappear on you. You can certainly put electronic surveillance in place, but it is going to take a lot of time. This is a very large, very expansive task, months at minimum.

FOREMAN: And your suggestion is based on your experience in Iraq, the best plan would probably be if you can get to this point, if you can get there, to destroy it where it is.

MARKS: To blow it up in place. That is exactly right. Render that location safe, blow it in place, take it off the list.

FOREMAN: Still, an incredibly complicated procedure, Wolf. Mission impossible may be too much for people so say. Mission improbable or certainly a difficult mission. That is absolutely the case and the stacks -- and the facts just stack up that way over and over again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Absolutely. Very difficult. Very difficult assignment. But let's see if they even get to start trying to implement it. Tomorrow will be critical in Geneva.

Thanks, guys, very much.

The bloodshed in Syria certainly continues to escalate. That civil war still going on even as much of the world works to try to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Every 15 seconds a Syrian becomes a refugee, and according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there is absolutely no end in sight.

To find out how you can help, go to for a list of organizations working in the region.

Coming up, an unprecedented recall revives the national debate over gun control and leaves two state lawmakers out of a job.

Plus, Anthony Weiner's bizarre farewell to the news media after a disgraced campaign.

Jeanne Moos standing by.


BLITZER: An unprecedented state recall has put the national debate over gun control back in the political spotlight. Leaving two Democratic lawmakers out of a job.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns has been working this story for us.

And the viewers who haven't been following what's going on in Colorado, this is pretty dramatic stuff.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's very true, Wolf. Before now, Colorado Democrats John Morse and Angela Giron were anything but household names in national politics. But what happened to them in the recall elections last night is likely to be remembered as a huge moment in the battle over gun control.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS (voice-over): Just a year after the movie massacre in Aurora, 14 years after the mass shooting in Columbine, the Colorado recall vote shows gun rights still has huge muscle, especially in the west. What two state senators had in common was voting for gun control, limiting firearm ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, and requiring universal background checks on gun sales. But voters recalled them Tuesday night. They were defiant.

JOHN MORSE, FORMER COLORADO STATE SENATE PRESIDENT: What we did was the right thing. And I said months ago, if doing this costs me my political career, that's a very small price to pay.

ANGELA GIRON, FORMER COLORADO STATE SENATOR: We can all really be proud of the work that we did. It appears that we have a little more work to do.

JOHNS: It was a huge blow for gun control advocates who vastly outspent the competition and still lost. The NRA called the vote a blowback reaction to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a powerful group headed up by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has pledged to personally finance a fight against the NRA. He gave $350,000 to oppose the recall election.

John Caldara's Independence Institute advocates for Second Amendment Rights.

JOHN CALDARA, PRESIDENT, THE INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE: I don't think you can underestimate the national impact of what happened here in Colorado. Let's remember that Michael Bloomberg has been on a tear to take away gun rights across America and after exploiting these tragic shootings, he was able to make some movement in the states in places like Connecticut and New York but he has to make it in the west.

JOHNS: Bloomberg essentially downplayed the national impact, suggesting it was a local phenomenon, calling it, "a reflection of a small, carefully selected population of voters' views on the legislature's overall agenda this session."

And Colorado isn't the only state where gun control is under attack. In Missouri, the legislature there debating a bill already vetoed by the governor that would make federal gun laws meaningless. It would have a tough time surviving a challenge in the courts but it could help get voters energized as the midterm elections approach next year.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's important because what it's going to do is that it's going to excite the base. It's going to excite gun owners or owners -- or folks who think that gun rights are very important, whether that being able to own a machine gun or to own a hunting rifle.


JOHNS: By the way, several states have tried to nullify federal laws that they didn't like. And not just over guns. The latest attempt that got swatted down just this year has the Supreme Court involved, Arizona's voter registration law that required proof of citizenship. The Supreme Court said federal law is controlling.

BLITZER: That -- those two recalls, that's going to spend a pretty powerful political signal out there to other lawmakers, state and federal, who may be wavering from the NRA on this issue.

JOHNS: Absolutely. It's the kind of thing that makes a politician think twice, especially during an election year.

BLITZER: It certainly does. All right, thanks very much. Joe Johns, reporting.

We'll have more of our special coverage on Syria. That's coming up right at the top of the hour, and including a harsh charge against President Obama from a key Republican senator who was known for actually wanting to work with the president.

But first, coming up next, Anthony Weiner's rather bizarre farewell to a rather bizarre campaign.


BLITZER: Two New York City campaigns come to an end both potentially undone by sex scandals.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not hard to put your finger on why the finger would be Anthony Weiner's farewell gesture to reporters chasing him.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you for showing me the finger. Show it to me again.

MOOS: It was a rough ride to defeat for both Weiner and Eliot Spitzer. "Sleazy come, sleazy go," as the "New York Post" put it. But Weiner got the short end of the stick, more hecklers.

ANTHONY WEINER, CANDIDATE FOR NYC MAYOR: It takes one to know one, jackass.

MOOS: More drama with opponents like the one he called grandpa.

WEINER: I don't have any anger issues. But you do, grandpa.

MOOS: Or jokes about his sexting nickname, Carlos Danger.


MOOS: Spitzer's concession seemed dignified. Compared to the circus over at Weiner headquarters where sexting partner showed up in a tight red dress to celebrate Anthony's loss. Trying to avoid her, Weiner cut through a McDonald's to get to a backdoor with the press giving chase, then with Sydney Leathers giving chase, and finally retreating. SYDNEY LEATHERS, WEINER'S ALLEGED SEXTING PARTNER: Just a little insane.

MOOS: Weiner's sexting partner was there for his concession, but his wife wasn't.

Eliot Spitzer's sex scandal led to some tough questions.

JAY LENO, HOST, "TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": How could you be this stupid?

MOOS (on camera): But as the campaign ended, there was an interview so nasty that you actually felt the stirrings of sympathy for Weiner. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell zeroed in on one question.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC'S "LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL": What is wrong with you? Anthony, I think there is something wrong with you.

WEINER: I know, you just said that. You just said.

O'DONNELL: And I'm looking and I'm looking --

WEINER: Repeating it doesn't make it any more interesting.

O'DONNELL: Anthony, I mean it from a psychiatric level. I don't care about your fallen political --

WEINER: Dude, dude. I don't really need your psychiatric question but just chillax, buddy. Just dial it down a second.

MOOS (voice-over): For Anthony Weiner, it was a campaign where there was laughter without mirth.

O'DONNELL: So here --


The delusional, ever delusional Anthony Weiner.

MOOS: So it ended with shoving between reporters and Weiner handlers.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you like the fact that they've been pushing you?

MOOS: And instead of a flamboyant Nixonian wave good-bye, it is just a stab of a finger.

O'DONNELL: The question is, Anthony, what is wrong with you? What is wrong with you? What are you going to do after you lose, Anthony?

WEINER: I don't plan on losing.

O'DONNELL: See, that's what's wrong with you.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Happening now, the future of a deal to avoid U.S. military strikes against Syria, now in the hands of the top U.S. and Russian diplomats. Why John Kerry's urgent mission potentially could fall apart. Stand by.

The day after the president's big speech, a Republican ally on Syria lashing out, saying the president of the United States is not comfortable being commander-in-chief.

And the nightmare of finding chemical weapons in a war zone.